Thursday, 13 October 2011

"Learning from the journey to here, for the journeys to come"

Black Feminist Learning Event

The under-documentation of Black feminist herstory means that much learning is at risk of being lost. The aim of this event is to share learning and experiences which will strengthen Black feminist activism. So we are calling together Black feminists who were instrumental in setting up and running groups, organisations and campaigns over the past five decades to share their experiences and document Black herstory. All groups and campaigns have had their ups and downs. We would like to focus the event on:
- what were the achievements
- what were the challenges
- what would you do differently (with hindsight)
- what is the focus for Black feminist activism now

For women descended (through one or both parents) from Africa, Asia (including Pacific nations), Latin America, the original inhabitants of Australasia, North America, and the islands of the Atlantic, Caribbean and Indian Oceans. This includes trans women.

WHEN: 6.30 – 9.30pm, Wednesday 26th October 2011
WHERE: Development House, 56 - 64 Leonard St, London, EC2A 4LT

The format will be facilitated large and small group discussions - not a panel. If you would like to help shape the event, please do get in touch:

ACCESS DETAILS FOR DEVELOPMENT HOUSE: 3 steps and lift access at main entrance (with alternative ramped entrance directly to basement); lift or 19 steps to basement from lobby level; accessible toilets in basement area. Basement floor even throughout. Nearest Blue Badge Parking in Moorfields (850 metres). If you need further access information, please do get in touch. There will be sign language interpretation at the event.

DIRECTIONS FROM OLD STREET UNDERGROUND: Use exit 4. Go past Sainsbury’s on your left; turn left onto Leonard Street. Go down Leonard Street for two minutes, Development House is on your right immediately before the small roundabout.
COST: FREE (Black Feminists is an unfunded group; donations are welcome on the night to cover the cost of the event.)

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Street Harassment Part 1?

by Saba Mossagizi

I was born and lived in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada up until 8 months ago. Alberta is a province known for its conservatism, lack of respect for the environment and abundance of money from its natural resources (see: lack of respect for the environment). Edmonton, as a city, is quite small with a population of just over a million. Besides the occasional random car driving past and honking, I could walk down the street without ever being hassled by strange men. If a man did approach me on the street with an “excuse me miss” I would never give out my number, but I would always stop because they were being polite, and who am I to just ignore another human being.

Moving to London was an insane culture shock for many reasons, the main one being, just the vast difference in population (there are just a lot more people living here). Another massive reason for my uneasy transition into life in London is the way I am spoken to while walking down the street. Men make hissing sounds, look me up and down and become aggressors, sometimes they stand in packs and intimidate me into walking around them.

Being talked to by strangers is not the issue, being complimented is not the issue, however, being disrespected on almost a daily basis can weigh on a person. When a man is shouting at you as you pass, not even attempting to have a conversation then what is the point in that interaction other than to make you feel uncomfortable and lesser than him?

I find myself passing men who are being polite because I cannot walk down the street without a “hey darlin/beautiful/gorgeous/love”, which is unfortunate because I do not want to be shaped into a different kind of person because of the men who act as aggressors towards me. I should not have to feel like I have to fix up or be embarrassed because someone has taken it upon themselves to hiss at me like they are calling for their house pet. This same type of attention directed at any male in the same circumstance would undoubtedly lead to some type of altercation; but as women, we are taught that we are to be looked at and men are taught to look (a bigger can of worms that represents a larger problem and cannot be respectfully dealt with in this relatively short post).

The first time I spoke up when at a Black Feminist gathering about street harassment, I was surprised to hear that most women have become used to this type of harassment. I even heard murmurings that it was just a part of living in London. The fact that these women that I respect so highly, never thought of this type of harassment as constantly or consistently as myself, completely and totally baffled me. However, this is the sad truth, all of my female friends who are from London have dealt with street harassment since they have hit puberty. Unfortunately, they are used to street harassment.

My end goal when I walk out of my flat is to make it to my destination without feeling dread, that I might make eye contact with someone who will try and “put me in my place”. No one has the right me to feel that uncomfortable, full stop.